5 minute read 19 Aug 2020
Tablet - financial

Performance improvement can mean the difference between growth and stagnation

By

David McQueen

EY Canada Performance Improvement Leader

Curious consultant. Innovative leader. Driven to deliver business outcomes by using today’s advanced technology to enable change and fuel tomorrow’s success.

5 minute read 19 Aug 2020

In today’s business environment, a comprehensive performance improvement strategy determines if companies will soar or stumble post-COVID.

It’s every company’s goal to ensure that their employees are meeting or exceeding standards and requirements — whether it’s among individual workers, at the departmental level or in the C-suite. But in today’s COVID-19 business environment, a comprehensive performance improvement strategy could be the type of game-changer that determines whether companies will soar or stumble post-pandemic.

When companies use the right combination of leading technology, process excellence and user experience to drive performance improvement, they are enabled to reinvent their way of working to drive sustainable growth over the long term. That’s incredibly important right now, as the way we’re working has changed and continues to change dramatically.

Disruptions caused by the pandemic are also creating business opportunities that necessitate a transformative organizational mindset. This means engaging and inspiring innovation among internal and external stakeholders and enabling all employees to perform at their highest level. This helps fuel immediate innovation that looks beyond the horizon and lays the groundwork for long-term success and sustainability.

Challenges for employee and customer support

It’s become clear in the pandemic that traditional customer service models can’t cope with the new levels of customer support required in an increasingly virtual environment. To prepare for what lies ahead, businesses have to maintain customer engagement by moving operations online, shifting their workforce to crisis management activities and leveraging new technological capabilities, such as robotic process automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence, to free up talent and create a new enhanced worker experience.

In today’s profoundly transformed environment, organization-wide rethinking of performance management is critical. Companies that implement performance improvement strategies in their workplaces to become digitally powered and connected, will be the winners coming out of the crisis.

Four focus points to help businesses thrive

To make that transition smooth, businesses should focus on powering four key dimensions:

  1. Customer interactions: Designing and enabling seamless digital interactions, sales and channel distribution capabilities.
  2. Enterprise and employees: Digitally enabling operating models and business processes, decision-making capabilities and virtual employee experiences to enhance productivity and optimize the cost structure.
  3. Supply chain: Implementing automated supply chain capabilities paired with strong manufacturing excellence by leveraging automation and Internet of Things solutions for manufacturing operations to mitigate their reliance on labor-intensive processes.
  4. Innovation and new business models: Curating innovation capabilities, products and services, and ecosystem partnering while balancing the agility and stability of the business.

The urgent need to innovate

Innovation programs may not come to mind as a top priority for businesses struggling to manage the impact of COVID-19. But it’s actually an ideal time to spur enterprise-wide innovation programs to create meaningful solutions to manage the crisis, as well as to develop innovations that will enable organizations to position themselves successfully over the long term.

The focus on customer interactions is particularly important. In the aftermath of COVID-19, the age-old “customer is always right” mantra that stresses the importance of good customer service will be even more prevalent. That’s because technology is now amplifying this principle: customers today not only have higher expectations, but also a much wider range of products, services, companies and brands to choose from, and a vast array of information sources to use in making buying decisions.

Good customer service is no longer a business differentiator – it’s a business fundamental. So it’s no surprise that meeting customers’ changing demands is the top objective for companies that are successfully transforming, even before other critical goals like increasing revenue.

Customers, in fact, dictate the speed at which organizations must transform, and the customer journey must always prevail over an adherence to legacy business processes. This is the definition of a human-centric approach – putting customer demands at the top of the priority list.

Closing the skills gap

The case for change is clear, as are the steps required. However, there is a skills gap that holds back many companies when it comes to diving into performance improvement strategies with both feet. EY research indicates that 59% of all companies believe there’s a widespread shortage of the type of skills that would help accelerate their digital transformation efforts.

This is a significant challenge. After all, employees are the heart of any organization; they’re the face of every company’s brand. If employers fail to make efforts to reshape and reskill their workforce by focusing on performance improvement right now, they’ll fail to meet customer expectations.

Companies must understand where they stand in their transformation journey, what challenges they face and what they should focus on. The EY Transformative Index explored the dynamics of transformation and disruptive challenges of the type we’re seeing during COVID-19, and how CEOs from the world’s biggest firms are attempting to seize emerging business opportunities.

The index and its recommendations is a great source of inspiration to help business leaders foster a transformative organization mindset among its employees and fuel performance improvement.

Lessons learned

COVID-19 has shown that there are always potential black swan events lurking just around the corner that could pack an unexpected and devastating punch. Businesses have to remember this reality and better prepare both themselves and their employees for such an eventuality. It has also highlighted the power of technology as a tool to connect people and keep businesses running. And it’s forcing companies to change, adopt new ways of working and to invest in their employees.

We will look back at the pandemic as a profoundly trying period of huge social, economic and technological transformation — with workers at its heart. But perhaps more importantly, we will also very likely come to regard this period as a catalyst for reinvention and the emergence of new resilient business models built with long-term sustainable growth in mind.

Summary

Disruptions caused by the pandemic are also creating business opportunities that necessitate a transformative organizational mindset. This means engaging and inspiring innovation among internal and external stakeholders and enabling all employees to perform at their highest level. This helps fuel immediate innovation that looks beyond the horizon and lays the groundwork for long-term success and sustainability.

About this article

By

David McQueen

EY Canada Performance Improvement Leader

Curious consultant. Innovative leader. Driven to deliver business outcomes by using today’s advanced technology to enable change and fuel tomorrow’s success.